Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Proceeding from the Father and err...

File:Maximus Confessor.jpg

St Maximus the Confessor, who refused to get his Epanokamelavkion in a twist over this!

I am still slightly surprised that at yesterdays parish AGM went spent time discussing leaving the Filoque clause out of the Creed.  To be honsest it scarcely struck me as a pressing mission issue.  It never has really.  However, Three Lambeth Conferences (1888, 1978 and 1988) have recommended that the Filioque be dropped from the Nicene Creed by churches that belong to the Anglican Communion.  We've just been rather slow on the uptake in most provinces.  I suppose I am theoretically in favour of unity with the orthodox but realistically, the ordination of women and a variety of ethical issues makes this unlikely for at least a millenium or so.  Still at least we weren't obsessing about women in the episcopate and it ws all conducted in a calm and courteous manner - n beard pulling a la Nicea!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Of Synods and stupidity.

I'm slightly at a loss to explain what happened in the English General Synod this week.  As a PR exercise it was a disaster and there is much understandable screaming for disestablishment/ removal of exemptions from equality legislation.  The former might be as good an idea for the Church's spiritual health (it was the making of the SEC in 1689) - but the Established Church is so wired into our unwritten political Constitution that has dismantling of it's current status would probably be a lousy idea if done in haste.  The latter begs the tricky question of having to do it for all religious organisations in the UK and that includes not only the RC church but also the vast majority of Muslims and the Orthodox Jewish - it's a minefield I strongly suspect HMG has no intention of wandering into.

The calls for Parliament to sort it out are I think misguided.  Anglicans in England are not established and funded like the Lutherans in Scandinavia and the legislature has no authority to change Church polity without the support of Synodical structures.  And if change isn't the mind of the Church, then imposing it on the Church is a recipe for disaster.  Women Bishops thus created would be seen as possessing legal authority but utterly lacking spiritual validity.  As were the "Tulchan Bishops" of Reformation Scotland.  No, sadly the slow and messy procedures of Synod are the way to go.

what it might mean is that the Episcopate of Women in the C of E is now utterly inevitable and that provision for the dissenter might well be radically reduced by will of Parliament who I reckon will be less inclined to pass generous provision than previously.  This may be neither the disaster liberals lament nor the passing victory some think it.  This may be a moment where the Church does a transformation no one suspected was possible into a much more inclusive body.  Perhaps we will have cause to thank God for the stupidity of Synod 2012.

Monday, 19 November 2012

International What day?

File:International Men's Day Symbol.png

I am slightly startled to realise that today is International Men's Day!  I had never heard of it before.  Evidently we sort of focus on men's health in Scotland, the Irish stress "positive male role models" and the French had a moustache growing competition!  I suppose it sort of balances the promotion of women's right with a celebration of  "good maleness".  Officially it exists to:
  • To promote positive male role models; not just movie stars and sportsmen but everyday, working class men who are living decent, honest lives.
  • To celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and to the environment.
  • To focus on men’s health and well being; social, emotional, physical and spiritual.
  • To highlight discrimination against men; in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law.
  • To improve gender relations and promote gender equality.
  • To create a safer, better world; where people can live free from harm and grow to reach their full potential.  
All very agreeable, I'm sure but I can't say the concept particularly enthuses me.  These days a lot of this is covered by the mainstream media and I rather fail to wonder why I had failed to recognise its existence until now.   Why are there so many pointless secualr observances around?  Honestly, they're almost as bad as obscure saints!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Well done Chaps!

File:Flag of the United States.svg 

I am not now, nor have I ever been an American - which I'm sure comforts the late Senator McCarthy slightly as he gazes up at the many Lazarus's he black listed from his particular spot in the Big Burny Fire!  I refuse to respect even slightly any politico who was delusional enough to think Larry Adler was a threat to National Security - I mean he plays the harmonica and did the theme to "Genevieve" which starred Kenneth More, he can't be a Commie!  But I have visited the USA (well, that bit of it called California - aka the Land of the Free and the Home of the Crazed!) and have enjoyed friendly relations with many Americans.  Thus I follow with a slightly curious eye the oddities of American politics.  Once upon a time in my youth I studied the American political system (Higher Modern Studies @ Beath High in 1984) and never did quite get the hang of the US electoral system of college votes and what the boundaries between Congress (the House of Representatives) and Senate were in practice.  Honestly, the House of Lords was quite logical in comparison.  Mind you, the French system was utterly incomprehensible compared with the American!!

I have to say I am glad they have elected that nice Irishman Mr Barry O'Bama again.  Firstly, his Christian name is not one which makes you think of an Oven Glove.  This is very useful when meeting Prince Phillip.  As a lot of American Presidents do.  Also, he is not a member of a funny sect.  Like the Church of England.  OK, he's not Episcopalian like FDR, Teddy Roosevelt and most of the good-ish Presidents, but that could always be arranged.  He also knows that bombing foreign places really isn't a good idea unless it's totally unavoidable and even then, use planes without pilots and let the British aim them.  We tend not to shoot people on the same side as ourselves.  He is also nice to poor people, sick people, Gay and Lesbian people and even idiots who elect Republican Governors in New Jersey when they get flooded.  So he is "a good thing".  He is also not rude to us when we are busy organising the Olympics and can do without hassle when we're trying to finesse Her Maj's 1st free fall parachute jump with James Bond.  NB Don't try this in future Mr Romney - Lord Voldemort is now in charge of the Secret Service and he may not be as nice as Dame Judi (who is a National Treasure like Alan Bennett)!

As they say over there - God Bless America.  And thanks for not picking a nutter as Chief Executive.  And don't worry - we're being very sensible and picking an Old Etonian as ++ABC.  No silly stuff will ensue (we hope).  I mean Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home were good PM's and they went to Eton.  So did Eden but he invaded Egypt without asking you lot and that wasn't very sensible.  2 out of 3 ain't bad!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Back from the dead - not really!

File:William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Day of the Dead (1859).jpg

It's been a while since I've blogged with a birthday past ( I am now 45 and we went to see Skyfall to celebrate - good film + Moneypenny returns!).  I am slightly off work today due to a wisdom tooth extraction, but the pain has faded.  One of the slight disadvantages of living in da country is that there are less opportunities  to follow the traditional observances of All Saints/Souls.  We got to the All Saints Mass but missed the All Souls in the evening this year.

This why the Office matters.  It allows the individual to maintain their devotional life even where local circumstances mitigate against communal celebrations.  I've rediscovered the joys of using the office on the train in the last few months.  And the usefulness of the rosary when tired after work.  Prayer is always a possibility even in a busy life.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Family Business

Been all rather "familial" this weekend.  We were off to see the mother in law to deliver birthday pressies, then popped in to see my cousin and his family where we arranged to meet up fish and chips next week.  Today it was Church with chocolate cake so they could share in the "Wedding experience" (it was the same sponge recipe by the same chef but with a different icing due to herself being pressed for time) and  a trip to the art gallery to mooch over Picasso's.  Next days off will be spent in a slumped heap snoring methinks!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Reading and murder

One of the joys of commuting is that you get more time to read.  Recently I've filled the time with some detective stories.  Anthony Horowitz's "The House of Silk" (a new Sherlock Holmes novel) is quite good.  Of course, the literary style isn't quite Conan Doyle but it is pretty faithful to the ethos and the spirit of the originals.  And I've also been flipping through a little freebie from the points on my Waterstone's card which has proved to be rather good.  James Runcie's "Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death".  A clerical detective is a rare thing these days and great fun for those of us who enjoy the clerical world.  Shades of the Anglican Father Brown are there but I am slightly aware of the fact that he is obviously modelled in part on the author's father the late Archbishop Robert Runcie (Military Cross with the Scots Guards, Cambridge setting etc).  Nonetheless, if you enjoy Marple on a Sunday evening, this will be well to your taste.

Thursday, 30 August 2012


File:Normandie Eure Evreux4 tango7174.jpg 

Recently, I've been doing a bit of preaching.  On the Saturday in Assumption tide I popped up at the Stow Pilgrimage and wittered on about the BVM to a small gathering in Stow Parish Church which, although Presbyterian, rejoices in the dedication "St Mary of Wedale".  I do find C of S architectural ordering a pest liturgically speaking, as everything focuses on the pulpit and the altar is almost an afterthought.  My next outing is on Saturday when I am due to preach at the annual Festival of the Scottish Guild of Servers in St Peter's Lutton Place in Edinburgh, where the pulpit is rather splendid but made of marble and very chilly on the preachers hands if you lean on it for effect or emphasis.  This I learnt many moons ago when doing a student placement there from Theological College (the scence of my only ever encounter with Choral mattins with the Athanasian Creed recited on Trinity Sunday!!!).  Then it's a normal Sunday sermon in Spikey Mike's the day after.

I enjoy preaching and always have. I also often enjoy hearing stimulating sermons.  But sometimes it is an effort to find something elevating or even interesting to say.  I despise bland platitudes from the pulpit but sometimes that's what you get. Even from me (mea culpa!).   Earnest and heartfelt, but basically lightweight.  It often doesn't nourish me. Equally, too learned a discourse makes me recall the great sermon critique I encountered when a rookie curate in Glasgow: "And whit did that hae tae dae wi' the price o' Spam in Govan, Son?"  Now I sympathise with the preacher who has to perform every week to the same gathering of familiar faces, but I also know from experience it's easier to pitch your stuff at a group you know.  Guest preaching is actually trickier.  So prayer for us preacher now and at thour of our dearth!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Embra Festival

Time off in August as ever means hitting a wee bit of the Festival.  So far we've seen Jo Caulfield (good), a comic play on Politics by the title of "Coalition" (expect to see Phil Jupitus & Co in the West End in the near future at £30 a ticket rather than for just over a Tenner!), a one man show about George Formby (good fun) and "Allo, Allo" (joy for us oldies).  I do enjoy wandering the streets of Embra and spotting wandering celebs - spotted a Proclaimer near the Meadows this year, sat in Cafe nero at the next table to Simon Callow a year or two back.  Festival time is actually a time of year I enjoy a lot.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Motes and Beams

Bishop Tartaglia is already at the centre of the debate over homosexuality and marriage

The new RC Archbishop of Weegiedom, Dr Tagliatelle, has managed to get himself in much hot water prior to his enthronement.  First, the Grub Street hacks of the West dug out a video of him at a Conference in the august setting  of CS Lewis's old Oxford college where he suggests (albeit with enough hedges to make you think he was a Sussex farmer) that a fairly recently departed Labour MP who was a former RC priest and openly gay had somehow had his lifespan shortened by his lifestyle. http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/archbishop-condemned-for-remarks-about-gay-mp.18248404  The fact that the gallstones and pancreatitis that actually carried off the said MP are not normally cited as a "gay plague" may lead one to suspect the said prelate is talking through an orifice not normally linked to the vocal chords.  Then they ran a stinker on a former colleague of his - indeed his former deputy and successor at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome, who had been disciplined for getting drunk and making a pass at another bloke. http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/how-the-catholic-church-whitewashed-priests-homosexual-advances.18276120

This litany of foot-in-mouth may suggest that the it's the liberal "meeja" out to get the Church.  Or it may suggest that the media is targeting public institutional hypocrisy in the RC Church in Scotland.  either way, it's a startlingly inept performance from someone who has be the Scottish RC "Media Bishop" for the past 6 years.  I have much sympathy for the rebuked cleric whose lapse of judgement fuelled by alcohol has been put in to the public domain well after he doubtless hoped it was water under the bridge.  If he took the pastoral counselling offered and worked on his issues with drink and sexuality successfully, then my sympathies are all the stronger.  Occasionally one does think that the Bishops of all the Churches might reflect rather more on Matthew 7:3 before opening their traps.

Monday, 23 July 2012

A Sunday off.

Sunday past I was enjoying a weekend off with no official religious duties whatsoever (holiday cover and that sort of thing had not been asked for this week) - which delivered me from another Sunday presiding over liturgical ineptitude inherited from other clergy who have no sensible idea what lay officiants should and should not do (like the Gospel) and where they should and should not stand (in my way at the altar for a start).  Sadly, we slept in missing both the local Kirk service and the local Piskie Eucharist.  We did however brunch at Morrison's and I read PD James's excellent follow on to Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" - "Death Comes to Pemberly. A Georgian whodunit.  Sadly, Elizabeth Bennett's mother was not the victim (she is the 2nd most annoying Austen character after Emma Woodhouse).  A most enjoyable read and highly commended.  The memsahib could not be persuaded to Evensong as her experience of the nearest C of E parish has been negative - primarily due to liturgical incompetence and clerical fawning.  I've seen the former there but avoided the latter.

Odd as it was not to "do" Church, I enjoyed the rest.  Maybe I should snooze at the weekend more often?  Mind you it was really the 1st weekend we've had since the wedding to ourselves so I call it "relationship maintenance time" and feel no particular guilt!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

On Liturgical Peculiarities.

File:Pontifical Mass - 15th Century - Project Gutenberg eText 16531.jpg 

As I wander around the diocese a wee bit (Spiky Mike's for choice, Eyemouth if I'm with Rachel and not on duty and elsewhere if covering services) it has come to my attention that a new liturgical oddity has surfaced in the last few months. (The last oddity I noticed in all honesty was the funny habit of the congregation saying bits of the Eucharistic Prayer that the priest normally did solo, but this is now the "norm" in the SEC and it's hardly worth protesting about now).  We have now taken to praying for a new Trinity in the intercessions - viz "David our Primus, John our Bishop and Susan our Dean".

Now don't get me wrong, all three are good and godly and doubtless need and appreciate all the prayers they can get (don't we all?).  But I am somewhat baffled by this sudden and peculiar elevation of 2 "Offices" to equal status as an "Order".  The Bishop is the chief pastor of the diocese - the Primus is the elected Chair of the College of Bishops and "1st amongst equals" Not and never an Archbishop, quasi, virtual or otherwise.  One of the reasons the Anglican Covenant fell flat in Scotland was it's odd idea that "Primates" were super special and wise and needed more authority and less accountability to the clergy and laity of the Church.  That is not an idea the Scots have ever borne well with - I mean we shot Archbishop Sharp for that sort of thing in the old days.  Prelacy it was called and not at all the "pure and primitive episcopacy" that Bishops Jolly and Skinner sent to Connecticut in 17Oatcake!  Equally, Deans have never been elevated to near Episcopal status. (I can't actually recall hearing anyone pray for "Kevin our Dean" or even "John our Dean" prior to the recent vacancy in the See).  I can understand the enthusiasm for Susan and her breaching the glass ceiling and all that but...  it's a bit like praying for yer Archdeacon in England.  And I've never heard of that happening in the mass very often.

Then again, maybe I'm just the grumpy old man of Scottish liturgy!  It's all gone down hill since the '70 Liturgy (1570 I mean!).  And I do pray for them all.  When directed by the Diocesan cycle of prayer!  (It's probably an Asperger's sorta thing!)

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Back again!

I haven't blogged for a bit because of getting ready for the wedding, getting married (it actually happened!) and the honeymoon (Provence is brill, you can't sneeze in Annecy without running into St Francois de Sales and St Jeanne de Chantal and Lyons is .... OK).  Here's some pikkies!

It's all very kosher!  The only person who had to exit the building due to too much incense was ... an RC priest:-).  Still getting used to coming home to someone!  In a nice way,that still seems odd.  Ad multos annos etc - and thanks be to God!

Saturday, 26 May 2012


File:Jean II Restout - Pentecôte.jpg

From "A Treatise Against the Heresies" by St Irenaeus of Lyon (he says it so much better than I can)

When the Lord told his disciples to go and teach all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new life in God. He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy. So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in men and to inhabiting God’s creation. The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ.

Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant. So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first-fruits of all the nations.

This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven. And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a water less tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above. Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.

The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning.  If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an advocate as well. And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds and left for his care two coins bearing the royal image, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit. Now, through the Spirit, the image and inscription of the Father and the Son have been given to us, and it is our duty to use the coin committed to our charge and make it yield a rich profit for the Lord.

Lord God,
you sanctify your Church in every race and nation
by the mystery we celebrate on this day.
Pour out the gifts of the Holy Spirit on all mankind,
and fulfill now in the hearts of your faithful
what you accomplished when the Gospel 
was first preached on earth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, 14 May 2012

St Matthias, Apostle.

File:Saint Matthias.PNG

Saint he may be, but there is no mention of Matthias in the lists of disciples in the Synoptic Gospels. According to the Acts of the Apostles, after the Ascension of Jesus, the assembled disciples, 120 or so of them, nominated 2 men to replace Judas: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. They prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs." Then they cast lots, and elected Matthias. (Acts 1:23-26).

There is absolutely no further information about Matthias in the New Testament. Even his name is uncertain: the Syriac NT of Eusebius doesn't call him Matthias but "Tolmai", (not to be confused with Bartholomew (which means Son of Tolmai) who was one of the original Apostles); Clement of Alexandria states that some identified him with Zacchaeus; the Clementine Recognitions identify him with Barnabas; the German Tubigen School theologian Hilgenfeld thought he was the same as Nathanael in the Gospel of John. According to Nicephorus (Historia eccl., 2, 40), Matthias first preached the Gospel in Judea, then in Aethiopia (believed to be a synonym for  Colchis, in modern-day Georgia) where he was crucified. A marker placed in the ruins of the Roman fortress at Gonio (Apsaros) in Georgia claims that Matthias is buried there.

The Synopsis of Dorotheus contains this tradition:
"Matthias preached the Gospel to barbarians and meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia, where the sea harbour of Hyssus is, at the mouth of the river Phasis. He died at Sebastopolis, and was buried there, near the Temple of the Sun.")
The Coptic Acts of Andrew and Matthias, places his activity similarly in "the city of the cannibals" in Ethiopia.  Alternatively, another tradition maintains that Matthias was stoned at Jerusalem by the Jews, and then beheaded.  According to Hippolytus of Rome, Matthias died of old age in Jerusalem.
Clement of Alexandria observed (Stromateis vi.13.):
Not that they became apostles through being chosen for some distinguished peculiarity of nature, since also Judas was chosen along with them. But they were capable of becoming apostles on being chosen by Him who foresees even ultimate issues. Matthias, accordingly, who was not chosen along with them, on showing himself worthy of becoming an apostle, is substituted for Judas.
It is claimed that St Matthias's remains are interred in the abbey of St. Matthias, Trier, Germany, having been brought there by the Empress Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine I (the Great). According to Greek sources, the remains of the apostle are buried in the castle of Gonio-Apsaros, Georgia.

According to old tradition, the old St. Matthias's Day (February 24) is said to be the luckiest day of the year. This is because Matthias was the saint who was chosen by lot to replace Judas Iscariot. It has therefore been seen as a good day on which to buy lottery tickets or to participate in activities such as that.  he is the patron Saint of alcoholism (as are St Martin of Tours and St John of God) ; carpenters; Gary, Indiana; Great Falls-Billings, Montana; smallpox & tailors.

So we don't where he worked or how he died or even where his body is today.  But I believe he is with Christ his Master now and continues to pray for us and with us.

Lord God, you chose Saint Matthias by lot
to complete the number of the twelve apostles.
By his prayer, include us among your chosen ones,
since we rejoice to see
that the lot marked out for us is your love.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

A new begininng.

File:Freudenberg Fátima1 01.jpg

No dead politicians today but a nice pikkie of Our Lady of Fatima (Feast 13th May - except on Sundays).  Enjoy your Sunday and pray with all the saints in heaven and on earth - including the ones in your own congregation of whom no one has heard.  And if you've a spare prayer, remember +John Armes of Edinburgh, newly consecrated and beginning his new ministry today and Susan MacDonald who will be Installed as Dean of the Diocese of Edinburgh (that's an Archdeacon in England) at Evensong in the Cathedral this evening.  This Fatima prayer seems suitable if you want to use it.

"Most Holy Trinity, I adore you! My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament."

Friday, 11 May 2012

Dead Prime Minister Day 200!

File:Spencer Perceval.jpg

Today is the anniversary of the only time we had (the sense to have?) a Prime Minister assassinated.  And I've said Mass in his memorial - the next door parish to where I was a curate in London (http://www.allsaintsealing.org.uk). 200 years ago to the day, Spencer Perceval (see above) was shot by a grumpy merchant who felt HMG owed him compensation for getting nicked in Russia.  Isn't it lucky that Fred the Shred is not the revengeful type, eh, Prime Minister?

Politics doesn't seem to stir the passions today.  Indifference and a certain level of contempt is the general response.  Having dabbled in years of youth in politics (President Aberdeen University Lib Dems, Vice Convener Scottish Young Lib Dems, failed Cooncil candidate in a no hope ward ( the traditional 1st step on the greasy pole leading to obscurity in Holyrood) etc.) I am still interested and generally think those who set out in politics start with generally high ideals and intentions (which may be eroded by expediency or corrupted by self interest - but so is the Sacred Ministry!).  The trouble is that a class of professional politicians has arisen today with little or no experience of life beyond the political cockpit.  Gone are the ex-miners and practising farmers who broadened the experience of the body Politic so usefully.  instead we have "politicians"  - a strange breed of semi-invertebrates who sometimes seem to breathe the same air as the rest of us.  And sometimes don't.  Maybe we need more real people as politicians and less of the pedigree party hacks and insiders?

Friday, 4 May 2012

Counting down!

The best man is now sorted, the organist booked and the papers into the Registrar!!  It's getting closer!  I/We are still not panicking and even I am getting slightly interested in what's getting bought on the wedding list.  How very unexpected!  I just wonder how long the calm will last?

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

St Athanasius's Day

The shrine of St Athanasius, St Mark's Coptic Cathedral, Cairo.
O Holy father Athanasius,
like a pillar of orthodoxy
you refuted the heretical nonsense of Arius
by insisting that the Father and the Son are equal in essence.
O venerable father, beg Christ our God to save our souls.
Troparion of St Athanasius 

I am probably one of the few people around in the SEC ever to have sung the entire Athanasian Creed at Mattins on Trinity Sunday (St Peter's Lutton Place Edinburgh 1992).  And he was hailed and lauded in my Systematics lectures in Aberdeen as a great thing.  Our Aussie Church History Prof referred to him as "a pukka theologian" - Arius was in his words "a bit cranky"!  The creed is at least a century later than the saint and Augustinian in phraseology but it explicitly stated the equality of the 3 persons of the Trinity for the 1st time and is of great significance.  Here it is for the unfamiliar.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. 

For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty co eternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. 

So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighty's; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are co eternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood by God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

We can cherry pick which bit of God we like - the loving Father, the human Son, the nebulous and more feminine Spirit.  But we need to hold all 3 together is our faith is to be rooted in the totality and reality of God.  Intellectually it is a challenge and spiritually a difficulty - so the words we use carry us and hold us in a continuing relationship of orthopraxis even if we are a bit hazy on the metaphysics.

Everliving God,
whose servant Athanasius testified

to the mystery of the Word made flesh for our salvation:
help us, with all your saints,
to contend for the truth
and to grow into the likeness of your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Mary's Month

File:OL of Pew.jpg

Our Lady of Pew, Westminster Abbey.

The Anglican theologian Hugh Montefiore, formerly Bishop of Birmingham, wrote of the Blessed Virgin: "Christians rightly honour and venerate her as one of the great saints of God. God had signally honoured her by choosing her to be the mother of Jesus.".  Actually, so does Islam: here's a little list of the tittles of the BVM in the Qu'ran.
  • Qānitah: Mary is so called in LXVI: 12. The term implies, not only constant submission to God, but also absorption in prayer and invocation, meanings that coincides with the Islamic tradition of Mary spending her childhood in the temple of prayer. In this way, Mary personifies prayer and contemplation in Islam.
  • Siddiqah: She who confirms the truth or She who has faith. Mary is called Siddiqah twice in the Quran (V: 73-75 LXVI: 12). The term has also been translated, She who believes sincerely completely.
  • Sājidah: She who prostrates to God in worship. The Quran states: “O Mary! Worship your Lord devoutly: prostrate yourself” (Quran III: 43). While in Sujud, a Muslim is to praise God and glorify Him. In this motion, which Muslims believe to be derived from Marian nature, hands, knees and the forehead touch the ground together.
  • Rāki’ah: She who bows down to God in worship. The Quran states: “O Mary! Bow down in prayer with those men, who bow down.” The command was repeated by angels only to Mary, according to the Muslim view. Ruku' in Muslim prayer during prayer has been derived from Mary’s practise.
  • Tāhirah: She who was purified (Quran III: 42)
  • Mustafia: She who was chosen. The Quran states: “O Mary! God has chosen you and purified you and again he has chosen you above all women of all nations of the worlds” (Quran III:42).
  • Sa’imah: She who fasts. Mary is reported to fast one-half of a year in some Muslim traditions.
Personally, I couldn't disagree with any of those descriptions of Our Lady.  Perhaps she could be a patron of Inter-Faith dialogue?  In that spirit, let us praise her in the Orthodox idiom:

It is truly meet and right to bless you, O Theotokos,
Ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
More honourable than the Cherubim, 
and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim,
Without defilement you gave birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify you! 
From the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Our Lady of Good Counsel.

A004genazzano.jpg - 34136 Bytes

 Image of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Genazzano, Italy.

"O Holy Virgin, to whose feet we are led by our anxious uncertainty in our search for and attainment of what is true and good, invoking you by the sweet title of Mother of Good Counsel, we beseech you to come to our assistance, when, along the road of this life, the darkness of error and of evil conspires towards our ruin by leading our minds and our hearts astray. 

O Seat of Wisdom and Star of the Sea, enlighten the doubtful and the erring, that they be not seduced by the false appearances of good; render them steadfast in the face of the hostile and corrupting influences of passion and of sin. 

O Mother of Good Counsel, obtain for us from your Divine Son a great love of virtue, and, in the hour of uncertainty and trial, the strength to embrace the way that leads to our salvation. If your hand sustains us, we shall walk unmolested along the path indicated to us by the life and words of Jesus, our Redeemer; and having followed freely and securely, even in the midst of this world's strife, the Sun of Truth and Justice under your maternal Star, we shall come to the enjoyment of full and eternal peace with you in the haven of salvation. Amen."

Prayer to Our Lady of Good Counsel composed by Pope Pius XII 

This is a particularly Augustinian remembrance of the BVM. The the veneration of the Blessed Virgin under the title of "Mother of Good Counsel", springs from the fact that there is a miraculous picture in the Augustinian church at Genazzano near Rome. Which doubtless appeals to the current Pope, who is deeply Augustinian in his theology, and to us Anglicans - whom the late Martin Thornton in his "English Spirituality" noted were essentially Augustinian (Jesuit and Franciscan spirituality never really entered our marrow in the same way allegedly).  It is the appeal for divine wisdom in an uncertain age that strikes me in the prayer of the Pope who had to lead a Church through the horrors of Fascism.  A prayer for today really.  and perhaps especially for world leaders.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Who's who on St George's Day?

File:First Doctor colour.jpg
 The First Doctor

Never mind St George's Day - who else passed into glory on this day?  Well, the 1st Dr Who for a start.

The Fighting Tremaire J M W Turner

Also the artist JMW Turner was born today.  I'm inclined to skip nationalist sentiment and be slightly secular.  Happy St George's Day to England, Georgia and Russia!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Holy martyrs.

The St Cuthbert Gospels

OK, oddball Celtic saint time!

Saint Donnán of Eigg (died 17 April 617) was a priest, probably Irish, who tried to introduce Christianity to the Picts of north-western Scotland during the Dark Ages. he is the patron saint of Eigg, an island in the Inner Hebrides. He was martyred on the 17 of April, 617 on Eigg by a pagan Pictish Queen who burnt him and 150 others. He is thought to be buried at Kildonan, Isle of Arran. 

We know nothing else about him.  Actually much the same can be said for many early saints.  But it is worth keeping their name and fame alive, if only to remind us that some people still suffer and die for their faith.  Too often we see the Church only as declining, comfortable and irrelevant.  Actually, it is still a church of martyrs and we need to support all Christians in danger with our prayers.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

St Damien the Leper

St Damien as depicted on the reredos in the AIDS memorial chapel in the Episcopal Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Hollywood, California.

A saint who has always impressed me is St Damien of Molokai in Hawaii.  I saw a film about him when I was quite young and it stuck in my mind.  he was probably one of the 1st God People I ever heard of (the other being Mary Slessor of Calabar courtesy of a battered paperback in my grandparents house entitled "White Queen of the Cannibals" - not a very PC title but it again grabbed my childish attention!).

File:Father Damien on his funeral bier with Mother Marianne Cope by his side.jpg 

Damien gave his life heroically ministering to the ultimate outcasts of his day - the lepers.  he died of the disease himself at the age of 49 on April 15 1889.  He was canonised 3 years ago.  It seems fitting to recall him and his example today. To quote president Obama:  "In our own time, as millions around the world suffer from disease, especially the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, we should draw on the example of Father Damien’s resolve in answering the urgent call to heal and care for the sick.".  and of course the current Pope: Father Damian, "teaches us to choose the good fight - not those that lead to division, but those that gather us together in unity." 

Blessed Damien, ora pro nobis.


I imagine this was painted by Hagios Homer of Springfield:-) (actually it was made up by Mad Priest).  Heresy?  Impiety? Nah, just remember St Thomas More's dictum: "The devil ... the proud spirit cannot endure to be mocked" (A Dialoge of Comfort against Tribulacion (Book II, cap. XVI)).  Why George Carey and Co get so steamed up about Christianity being mocked etc I don't know - it means we've ceased to be respectable and beyond criticism and once more entered the hurly burly of the World.  Which might mean fewer "cultural Christians" and more committed ones.  which would be no bad thing.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Images of the Divine.

Every so often you come across a new image that hits you as a glimpse of the Divine Nature.  This one of the Trinity by the LGBT artist Douglas Blanchard did it for me.  OK, the wounded Father /wounded Son image veers towards Patripassianism ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patripassianism )  but I find this image both deeply powerful and engaging.  It earths the Trinity in an imagery I find accessible.  I also like this definition by the Orthodox theologian Thomas Hopko:  

"Thus, according to the Orthodox Tradition, it is the mystery of God that there are Three who are divine; Three who live and act by one and the same divine perfection, yet each according to their own personal distinctness and uniqueness. Thus it is said that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are each divine with the same divinity, yet each in their own divine way. And as the uncreated divinity has three divine subjects, so each divine action has three divine actors; there are three divine aspects to every action of God, yet the action remains one and the same."

Holy God,
faithful and unchanging:
enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth,
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love,
that we may truly worship you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

(Common Worship, alternative collect for Trinity Sunday.)

Monday, 9 April 2012

Easter and all that!


The end of Holy Week was a wee bit unsatisfactory for me.  Having been fitting things in whilst working in Embra (including deaconing on Maundy Thursday and preaching a bit of the 3 Hours on Good Friday), I took off to Rachel's on Saturday for a weekend together, me being off work.  This mean we had to fit into other Holy Week patterns locally.  The only Easter Vigil we could find suffered from one major problem - it was the 1st time they'd ever done it!!  Shall we say the choreography was not of the standard I have grown used to in the Edinburgh Diocese?  3 out of 5 servers pointing the right way at the Gospel, 1 facing in - but not at the deacon and no 4 pointing east to the altar!!!  It was like coming from Right Flank Company, 2nd Battalion the Scots Guards to the Home Guard, Walmington on Sea platoon!  The chief choreographer was a cleric who bore a most startling resemblance both physically and vocally to Stephen Fry (I now have a fair idea what Mr Fry will look like when he's 70!)  who rather cheered us up afterwards by wandering across the Green in a beanie hat singing "Alleluia!"!!!  The deacon read well and with conviction but really should have put her little flashlight down before making liturgical gestures whilst proclaiming the Exsultet!!  The mini searchlight effect was a tad distracting!

The slightly odd conflation of Easter Vigil (bits of) with Easter Day Eucharist at Eyemouth was also slightly unsatisfactory. Partly the hymns were dull, partly I had had no nicotine or caffeine before going to Church - therefore I was grumpy and critical. The people as ever were awfully friendly and welcoming.  Next year I hope we shall be based in one place and stick with one systematic Holy Week.  Still, Christ is risen and that's what matters.  and I read ch 16 of the Screwtape Letters afterwards to remind myself that the finer points of liturgy and being critical thereof can be a barrier to openness in receiving the grace of God through public  worship.  So my self awareness wasn't entirely AWOL!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Good Friday 2012

File:Agias Triados frescos cross.jpg
The Good Friday crucifix and frescoes on walls of the katholikon in the. Trinity Monastery, Meteora, Greece.

"Merciful God, creator of all the peoples of the earth and lover of souls: Have compassion on all who do not know you as you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; let your Gospel be preached with grace and power to those who have not heard it; turn the hearts of those who resist it; and bring home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there may be one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen"
(Solemn Collect for Good Friday, American BCP 1979)

Words are inadequate. Look. Reflect. Sorrow. Pray.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

On this night.

File:Merazhofen Pfarrkirche Chorgestühl links Juliana.jpg

Photo: Andreas Praefcke Kath. Pfarrkirche St. Gordian und Epimachus, Merazhofen, Stadt Leutkirch im Allgäu, Landkreis Ravensburg Chorgestühl.

By happy coincidence this year, Maundy Thursday where we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper happens to displace the feast of St Juliana of Liege.  In 1211, the 18 year old Juliana had a vision, in which she was instructed to institute the feast of Corpus Christi.Supported by Jacques of Troyes, Archdeacon of Liège, (later bishop of Verdun, Patriarch of Jerusalem and eventually Pope Urban IV).  In 1264 he issued the papal bull Transiturus de hoc mundo making the Feast of Corpus Christi a universal festival in the Western Church.  I'm sure she doesn't mind.  She was ever so slightly keen on the Holy Eucharist!

It's worth recalling some of the words of the Office hymn for Corpus Christi Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium (also sung to night as we process to the altar of Repose) as we remember the event of the last night of Christ's earthly life and the Passover he celebrated with his disciples.

On the night of that Last Supper,
seated with His chosen band,
He the Pascal victim eating,
first fulfills the Law's command;
then as Food to His Apostles
gives Himself with His own hand.
He feasted, he fulfilled the law and then he offered himself.  Let's remember that tonight as we enter into the Great mystery of the Triduum.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Into the Great Week.


Yes, I'm using the Eastern Term for Holy Week  And an icon of Christ the Bridegroom, showing Jesus in the purple robe with which he was mocked and crowned with a crown of thorns.  Interestingly, the Orthodox tradition has no celebration of the Eucharist on the 1st 3 days of Holy Week, but Communion from the Reserved Sacrament (Vespers and Liturgy of the Presanctified), with anointing on the Wednesday in remembrance of his anointing with perfume (John 12:1-9) as a sign of his impending death.  Foot washing takes place on the Thursday morning during the Chrism Mass.  And there is no Eucharist in any form on Good Friday or Holy Saturday.

I'm actually rather better prepared for Holy Week this year than I have been for ages.  I went to mass, confession and rosary yesterday - and I haven't been a penitent since my crack up by in 2009.  (Mind you, your sharing at meetings does a very reasonable substitute in terms of psychology and non-judgementalism).  matins, mass and then an evening service of lessons, hymns and music  + Compline today.  perhaps this year will be different.  Every year is.  I'll be at St Michael's for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, then off to Burnmouth and Rachel, Easter Eve will be Berwick upon Tweed and Easter Day in Eyemouth.  They won't be quite like Spikey Mike's but then - nowhere is!

Have a Great and Holy Week.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

And can it be?


Charles Wesley preaching.
Psalm 42 is a psalm to which I often return.  It speaks to me  (or more accurately for me).  Certainly it struck me as a fair reflection of my feelings whilst on retreat at the beginning of Lent.

"My tears have been my meat day and night
 while they daily say unto me, Where is now thy God?
Now when I think thereupon, I pour out my heart by myself
for I went with the multitude, and brought them forth into the house of God;
In the voice of praise and thanksgiving
among such as keep holy-day.
Why art thou so full of heaviness, O my soul
and why art thou so disquieted within me?
Put thy trust in God
 for I will yet give him thanks for the help of his countenance."
Ps 42:3-7

 I still have a huge "difficulty" in truly believing and accepting that God is actually willing and able to do things for me because I am, in God's view "worth it".  To me, it's all still about hauling myself up and doing the work myself.  I can preach grace and administer grace but I struggle to accept grace.  Which is why this hymn by Charles Wesley matters to me.

And can it be, that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shoulds't die for me?

'Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
'Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father's throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace,
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race:
'Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Imprisoned Spirit? Yep, got one.  Bound in nature's  night - oh yes, my inner fear and frailty assures that.  But through the grace of God prayer and sacrament I get just enough experience of being set free to move on a bit.  Like alcohol, the darkness can jump out and tempt me from time to time and a sense of despair can kick in.  And grace can boot it into touch for a bit.  Maybe I just need to seek grace more often.  Then again, don't we all?  Maybe this Holy Week I'll try to see the grace on offer and not just the gloom.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Keble and keeping it in the day.

Yesterday the Anglican Communion (except for the C of E who keep his feast on the anniversary of his famous Assize Sermon on National Apostasy in July) remembered John Keble. Pardon the non-inclusive language, but these quotes from the great man struck me as useful in a time when there is much political & religious turbulence (like the Anglican Covenant (or Dead Parrot) & the re-election of George Galloway (aka the Mouth of the Tay) to the High Court of Parliament at this time assembled!).

"After all, the surest way to uphold or restore our endangered Church, will be for each of her anxious children, in his own place and station, to resign himself more thoroughly to his God and Saviour in those duties, public and private, which are not immediately affected by the emergencies of the moment: the daily and hourly duties, I mean, of piety, purity, charity, justice. It will be a consolation understood by every thoughtful Churchman, that let his occupation be, apparently, never so remote from such great interests, it is in his power, by doing all as a Christian, to credit and advance the cause he has most at heart; and what is more, to draw down God's blessing upon it."

"As to those who, either by station or temper, feel themselves most deeply interested, they cannot be too careful in reminding themselves, that one chief danger, in times of change and excitement, arises from their tendency to engross the whole mind. Public concerns, ecclesiastical or civil, will prove indeed ruinous to those, who permit them to occupy all their care and thoughts, neglecting or undervaluing ordinary duties, more especially those of a devotional kind."

The first passage suggests to me a flavour of Step 3 in the 12 Steps: " to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him".  And also of that AA slogan "Keep it in the Day".  We are great at distracting ourselves from the actual practise on a daily basis of the faith we profess in our personal and life and locale by getting worked up about big causes and campaigns.  I'm all for those - but unless it is matched by piety and purity, then those of us who would call ourselves 'liberal minded' Christians can find ourselves dismissed as lacking in faith if all we seem to do is talk about charity and justice.  Equally, we need to be careful to show charity to those we disagree with in thought, word and blog!  Even George Galloway!

The second passage is equally pertinent.  We can become obsessive with our pet religious or political hobby horses - LGBT rights, abortion etc, etc, etcBut that can mess up our personal lives and our prayer life if it is not held in a healthy balance with prayer and ordinary life.  The genius of classical Anglicanism was/is it's distrust of unbalanced living and dangerous obsessive enthusiasm.  Maybe it recognises than more people have addictive personalities than admit it!

Father of the eternal Word,
in whose encompassing love
all things in peace and order move:
grant that, as your servant John Keble

adored you in all creation,
so we may have a humble heart of love
for the mysteries of your Church
and know your love to be new every morning,
in Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Feast of the Annunciation

File:Paolo de Matteis - The Annunciation.jpg
 (The Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis 1712, St Louis Art Museum)

This is today's thought from the World Community for Christian Meditation:

"She (Mary) was ‘deeply disturbed’ by the angelic message and could not understand the meaning of what was happening to her. We long for something to happen, for God to appear to us, for reality to flower in our lives of expectation and frustration. And when it does we can hardly recognise it and wonder what it really means. There are no final answers and the desire for God, for the everything we need, can never satisfied. We cannot equal the gift. That is why humility is wisdom.

All we can do is give up own point of view and learn to see everything from the perspective of the giver. But then we feel as if we are being annihilated. The ego begins to campaign for its rights. So we try to let God be the true centre while retaining a bolthole for our own self-centredness. The absurdity of this and the frustration it involves may take a long time to become evident.

Mary struggled and yielded her perspective as every loving parent, every loving person knows they are called to do. Her fiat, let it be done to me as you have said, was simultaneously a defeat and a victory, a collapse and a breakthrough, a death and the beginning of a new birth beyond the cycle of death and rebirth.

Our mantra is our fiat. Let it be."

Being deeply disturbed by God is an experience we share with Mary.  That sense of confusion at where and how we are being called to be, is part and parcel of the Christian vocation.  But self-surrender is no easy option - our ego sees to that.  For me, the "Yes" that Mary uttered must have been preceded by an experience like that of  the Patriarch Jacob wrestling with that angel!

File:Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.jpg

 (Jacob wrestling with the Angel, Gustav Dore)
Today is the beginning of our salvation,
And the revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
"Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!"
(Orthodox Troparion of the Annunciation, attributed to St Athanasius)

Friday, 23 March 2012

Planning D-Day.

File:St marys music school.jpg
Edinburgh Theolgical College (Coates Hall)

Ripon College Cuddesdon
Cuddesdon Theological College

File:Westcott House quad, Cambridge.jpg
Westcott House Cambridge

File:Durham 06.jpg
 Cranmer Hall Durham

I was on the wrong side of the Rector's desk today.  Or rather, on the side of it I'm new to.  Rachel and I met with Bishop Brian to plan the wedding liturgy!!!  Largely he was happy with what we had proposed but we fine tuned the tricky logistics of Registration, prayers of Intercession, the  Peace and the Blessing of the Newlyweds.  It is basically a Scottish Marriage Liturgy 2007 with Eucharist but it had to be tinkered with (like adding a confession and not trying to bless us between the end of the Canon of the Mass and the Fraction -which utterly scrambles the flow of the liturgy).  It was fun though!  The combined liturgical talents of Coates Hall, Westcott House, Cuddesdon and Cramner Hall Durham working out the running order made quite a team!

I have just taken possesion of Richard Holloway's memoir "Leaving Alexandria" and a book on 12 Step Spirituality by Richard Rohr.   So my night time reading on sleepovers is sorted for a bit.  I'll let you know how I find them.

Monday, 19 March 2012

St Joseph's day


Feeling slightly Lionel Blue-ish today, so instead of piety, pastry!  Wish I thought about having one of these today! A zeppola is an Italian  St. Joseph's Day cake.  These are a kind of doughnut and  are usually topped with powdered sugar. They can be filled with custard, jelly, pastry cream or a butter-and-honey mixture.  Zeppole are traditionally eaten on La Festa di San Giuseppe. In Rome, Naples and Sicily and Malta, these little pastries are sold on many streets and are sometimes gifts on this day. They are also common in Italian-American communities in the United States.

File:Billafingen Pfarrkriche Seitenaltar.jpg

Actually the Memorare of St Joseph seems a good way to remember the step-Father of the Redeemer.

Remember, O most pure spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
my sweet protector St. Joseph
that no one ever had recourse to thy protection
or implored thy aid without obtaining relief.
Confiding therefore in thy goodness,
I come before thee, and humbly supplicate thee.
Oh, despise not my petitions,
foster-father of the Redeemer,
but graciously receive them.

Saturday, 17 March 2012


File:Edinburgh Jenners01.jpg 

The Grand Hall, Jenners Department Store, Princes Street, Edinburgh.

Right! Time for something upbeat.  I spent 5 1/2 hours in Jenner's today with the memsahib putting together the dreaded Wedding List!!  It means the time is drawing near!  And I actually didn't get grumpy or narky - I suppose the fact that a) it's not our money that will be spent & b) we both hate that kind of shopping made it bearable!  We did stop for soup and a donut in the Restaurant (not a patch on the old Jenner's tea room of blessed memory but more reasonable than the Valvona and Crolla Caff next door) and didn't have any falling out over items.  I am learning the use of the tactical response of "Oh, aye!" in these situations:-).

Friday, 16 March 2012

Sad news

It had to happen sometime I suppose.  I ask your prayers for an old friend of mine from Uni days who I discover has just died recently.  Sadly, he went on a bender and didn't come round.  RIP G: and that indeed but for the grace of God could have been me.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Trusting in the Higher Power.

An appropriate theme I suspect, given that today is my 3rd AA birthday.  I'm just glad still to be here and not in a grave and glad to be sober.  I had a good meeting at my home group tonight and came across this prayer that some might say sums up what it means to trust in your Higher Power:

“Lord, give me the strength to greet the coming day in peace. 
Help me in all things to rely on your holy will. 
Reveal your will to me every hour of the day. 
Bless my dealings with all people. 
Teach me to treat all people who come to me throughout the day
with peace of soul and with firm conviction 
that your will governs all. 
In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. 
In unexpected events, let me not forget that all are sent by you. 
Teach me to act firmly and wisely, 
without embittering and embarrassing others. 
Give me the physical strength to bear the labours of this day. 
Direct my will, teach me to pray, 
and you yourself, pray in me. Amen.”   
Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow

Monday, 12 March 2012

Racism and Football.

Andrew Watson

It's amazing the things you discover.  Racism in British football is often commented on.  But it wasn't always a problem in Scottish football.  The man above, Andrew Watson (1857– 1902) was the first black footballer in the world to play as an internationalist. He won 3 Scotland  (Yaay!  Inclusive Scotia rools!) caps between 1881 & 1882. He played as a full back.

Born in what was then British Guyana (they've dropped the British bit since becoming independent), he was the son of a wealthy Scottish sugar planter and a British Guyanese woman. He went to King's College School, Wimbledon, where he excelled at sports and went on to study natural philosophy (physics), mathematics and engineering at the University of Glasgow.

In 1876 he signed for Glasgow side Parkgrove F.C., also serving as match secretary, (which made him the first black administrator in football history). In 1880, he played in a All Glasgow team against Sheffield - the Weegies won 1–0! After marrying in Glasgow, he soon signed for Queen's Park F.C. – then Britain's biggest football team (oh, how the mighty Spiders have fallen!) and later became their secretary. He led them to several Scottish Cup wins, becoming the first black player to win a major competition.  In 1882, he was the first black player to play in the English Cup when he turned out for Swifts F.C.  In 1884 he was the first "foreign" player to be invited to join the most exclusive football team of the day (only 50 members) - Corinthians. During his time with them, he was part of the team that beat Blackburn Rovers 8 - 1 ( then the English Cup holders).

His skin colour did not matter to his contemporaries, and there is no record of institutional racism from the  Scottish Football Association. One match report was more interested in his brown boots (black boots were usual then).  Minutes record that, before one match where he was injured and couldn't play, an SFA vice-president said if Watson had been fit he would have happily drugged another Scottish international to give Watson his place. Watson won 3 caps for Scotland. the 1st Scotland v. England 12 March 1881, where he was Captain and we won 6 – 1(!!!).  A few days later Scotland played Wales and won 5 – 1. Watson's last cap was against England on 11 March 1882. This was another 5 – 1 victory for Scotland. In November 1877 he married Jessie Nimmo Armour - their son, Rupert, was born the nextyear and a daughter, Agnes Maude, in 1880. Watson later emigrated to Australia and died in Sydney in 1902.

it's heartening to think that Scottish football once upon a time showed higher ideals that the neds and money culture of the Old Firm.  Maybe it can again.

Friday, 9 March 2012

What's that then Ted?

I liked this image:

for obvious reasons!  I'm currently having the slightly surreal experience of being consulted by the memsahib on wine for the wedding reception (with my history I am virtually an expert on cheap good plonk!).  Which has left me a bit confused.  I seem to actually have trained my brain NOT to think about booze these days, so it's a very strange sensation indeed to be planning a major bevvy buy of which I will drink zero.  However, I feel no compulsion to actually go and drink, so that's OK.

Today is the feast in some Calendars of one of my favourites, Gregory of Nyssa.  His theology is interesting and not uncontroversial!  Gregory was one of the first theologians to argue, in opposition to Origen, that God is infinite. His main argument for God's infinity is found in Against Eunomius, that God's goodness is limitless, and as God's goodness is of his very essence and nature, God is therefore also limitless.  A major follow on from this is that the limitless God is basically beyond the comprehension of the limited minds of human beings. His theology was "apophatic": God is defined in terms of what we know God's NOT like, rather than what we think the Divine Persons might be like.

Gregory taught that since God is infinite, we can never reach a full understanding of God, and so in both life and thereafter, there is a constant progression [ἐπέκτασις] towards the unreachable knowledge of God, as the individual continually transcends all the knowledge and experience they have previously had. In his Life of Moses, Gregory speaks of three stages of this spiritual growth: initial darkness of ignorance, then spiritual illumination, and finally a darkness of the mind in mystic contemplation of the God who cannot be comprehended.

Gregory also believed in universal salvation or resurrection. (Shock, horror!) In his Life of Moses, he wrote that just as the darkness left the Egyptians after three days, perhaps redemption [ἀποκατάστασις] will be extended to those suffering in hell. Thus salvation may not only extend to humans; a la  Origen, there are passages where he seems to suggest that even demons will have a place in Christ's "world of goodness". Gregory's interpretations of 1 Corinthians 15:28 ("And when all things shall be subdued unto him ...") and Philippians 2:10 ("That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth") support this understanding of his theology.  However, in the Great Catechism, he suggests that while every human will be resurrected, salvation will only be for the baptised. While he believes that there will be no more evil in the hereafter, this does not rule out God might justly damn sinners for eternity. The main difference between Gregory's conception of ἀποκατάστασις and Origen's would be Gregory believing that the human race will collectively return to sinlessness and Origen holding that personal salvation will be universal.  In other words, his take is a slightly skewiff orthodoxy that appeals to my Anglican craziness!

St. Gregory of Nyssa jaw bone, 4th century, Visoki Decani Monasetry, Serbia

St. Gregory of Nyssa jaw bone, 4th century, Visoki Decani Monastery, Serbia

Inspired by his example and aided by his prayers,  let us pray:

Lord of eternity, creator of all things,
in your Son Jesus Christ you open for us the way to resurrection
that we may enjoy your bountiful goodness:
may we who celebrate your servant Gregory press onwards in faith to your boundless love
and ever wonder at the miracle of your presence among us;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.